NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been a long-time proponent for adding a mid-season tournament, but he recognizes there would be a difficult balance between promoting the new event and maintaining the importance of the regular season. Silver discussed the challenges involved during an interview with Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.
No matter when the tournament would take place, it will require a reduction in the regular season schedule, which has been set at 82 games per team since the 1967/68 season.
“The last thing I’m trying to suggest is that we don’t value our current regular season, it’s enormously valuable,” Silver said. “These teams care a lot about home-court advantage, and people can’t get enough of NBA basketball.”
A new tournament would be modeled after similar events in European soccer, providing all the teams with a break during the season and a new prize to play for. To be implemented, it would require agreement from the players union and two-thirds majority approval from the Board of Governors.
Silver provided a tournament update last week during his annual NBA Finals press conference, but admitted “we’re not there yet” as far as working out the details.
In his interview with Goodwill, Silver promised that regardless of what schedule changes are required, each team will continue to host every other team at least once per season.
“I think that’s critically important,” he said. “Everybody wants to see, even if it’s a cross-country trip, that wherever that player is on that team that plays in the other conference, they should have the opportunity to see that player at least once.”
Silver recognizes that as a new event, it may take some time for the tournament to catch on with both fans and players. The public may view is as just another event on an already-crowded winter sports calendar, while athletes may see it as a chance to rest if the stakes aren’t high enough.
“I’ll say I recognize that [if] we do that, it’s not going to be an overnight success,” Silver admitted. “Because the obvious question, whether it’s from the players or for the fans will be, ‘What? Why should we think this is meaningful? Playing in-season tournaments?’ My response is going to be, ‘I get that.’ But I think we can create new traditions, obviously, things change over time. And so that’s something I’m very focused on right now.”